The last leg of eviction drive against illegal structures and parked vehicles on roads surrounding Tejgaon truck depot faced obstruction Sunday when a section of truck owners locked in clashes with police keeping Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Annisul Huq confined for three hours.
Several people, most of them journalists, sustained injuries during the clashes, while traffic movement in and around the area remained halted for over three hours causing untold sufferings to people as they staged agitation putting blockades on the roads and vandalised vehicles.
Witnesses said transport workers burned tyres and took to the streets of Satrasta intersection chanting slogans during their agitation.
Journalists sustained injuries when transport workers swooped on them. The workers received injuries in police action, said witnesses. The incident took place in presence of DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq and Railway Minister Mujibul Huq.
Witnesses said the workers smashed cameras and vehicles of different print and electronic media.
One of the injured workers was identified as Jashim Uddin, 40, a truck owner. Injured others include, photographers Anisur Rahman and Tanvir Ahmed, a journalist from a privet television channel, and two employees of the DNCC.
Witnesses, locals and police said some people attacked on the DNCC employees soon after they launched the eviction drive at around 1:30pm. As police tried to stop the attackers, the workers vandalised vehicles and swooped on law enforcers and journalists.
According to witnesses, equipped with various weapons like sticks and iron rods, the workers also pelted brickbats at the journalists and lawmen forcing them retaliating with firing of three rounds of rubber bullets and several rounds of teargas. Chases and counter chases also took place.
At one stage of the clashes, Mayor Annisul Huq and Railway Minister Mujibul Huq moved towards the office of the Bangladesh Truck and Covered Van Owners' Association located at the truck depot for talks with its leaders.
But the Railway Minister left the place after sometime leaving the Mayor confined.
Muntasirul Islam, Deputy Commissioner at the Media Centre of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), said one of the policemen also sustained injuries in the attacks.
"The workers launched attacks to stop the eviction drive", said the DMP DC and added, "Additional forces remained deployed in and around the area so that untoward incident could not take place further."
The situation was brought under control at around 5:00pm with the deployment of huge contingent of additional forces from police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
Coming out of the office of Bangladesh Truck and Covered Van Owners' Association, Mayor Annisul Huq said the eviction drives would not be stopped.
"The drives will continue for the sake of easing people's suffering in the area", said the Mayor and added, "The truck depot and roads in the area will be freed from the illegal occupiers anyhow for the welfare of people."
He said a section of people had kept the truck depot and roads in its surroundings occupied illegally for years. He urged the truck owners and employees to park their vehicles inside the depot and not to park those on the roads in the area.
The Mayor denied opening fire by police. "No firing incident took place here. The workers sustained injuries with the bricks pelted by their own people."
Rustum Ali, General Secretary of Bangladesh Truck and Covered Van Owners' Association, held some outsiders responsible for the clashes between workers and police.
"Being instigated by vested quarters, some people mistakenly got involved in the clash following a rumour of the death of a worker", said Rustum Ali.
He said, "Around 39 bighas of land inside the truck depot has been grabbed illegally. More rooms would be created at the depot by recovering the land."
The government in one of its inter-ministerial meeting on September 14 decided to relocate the truck depot somewhere on the outskirt of the capital in phases. Before the shifting of the depot, the meeting also decided to evict illegal structures from the depot and its surroundings. Besides, it decided to ease traffic movement through freeing the roads in the area from illegal parking.
As part of the decision, the DNCC launched eviction drives on November 8, when the Mayor gave an ultimatum for removal of all illegal structures by November 27.